KPBS AIRDATE: JANUARY 5, 2001
If you’re mad for Plaid, you’ll be glad, not sad, that the fad is iron-clad (and that’s no dimpled chad!). The Plaids may change faces or spaces, but now in their fifth year in San Diego, they just may, as the title says, last forever. After an incredible run at the Theatre in Old Town, the checkered musical perennial, “Forever Plaid,” has recently relocated to a new downtown supper club spot, Backstage at the Aubergine in the Gaslamp. And though the guys are as geeky and goofy as ever, you’ll be happy to know there’s no kitsch in the kitchen. The food is superb, and the service is likewise. No rubber chicken here…. There are three main course choices, two salad choices, two dessert choices. They’re all excellent, and beautifully presented. And oh yes, there’s a presentation onstage, too.
The current Plaid players are especially strong vocally. Even though on the night I attended, there was an understudy for Frankie, the presumed group leader, the voices of Michael Dalager, Kevin McMahon, Ryan Drummond and David Humphrey melded perfectly and made musical heaven of those four-guy, pre-Beatles, tight chord harmonies. An auditory treat to go along with the gustatory delights.
In case you’re the one person in San Diego who hasn’t yet seen or heard the Plaids, let me just say that the plot is flimsy, to say the least, really just an excuse for all those great old songs. If you weren’t even alive when the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan Show, or if you don’t even know the name Ed Sullivan, let alone Perry Como, worry not. Anyone of any age can enjoy the comedy and the harmony.
Here’s the story. The Plaids, four nerds from the high school audio-visual club, were on their way to a big singing gig, at the Airport Hilton cocktail bar, when their car hit a busload of Beatlemaniac parochial school virgins, and the poor guys were instantly killed. The girls remained blessedly intact. That was February, 1964; now, the Plaids are getting another chance. One night to come back and do the whole show they’d planned for, so many years ago. So we get treated to everything from “Lady of Spain” to “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” “Sixteen Tons” to “Heart and Soul,” each sung better than the one before it.
The physical humor is super (director/choreographer/conceiver Stuart Ross still keeps a hand in all the productions), but the individual characters are less well defined in this cast than in previous ones I’ve seen. The whole thing still works like crazy, maybe even better in this more relaxed environment. I don’t know about you, but somehow, when I’m sitting in a theater, I expect a little something substantial in the drama department. But when I’m eating, and especially drinking, I’m up for anything. And the Plaids always deliver, in that fresh, honest, squeaky-clean way that makes them a treat, even for your visiting aunt Hilda. Even musical director Terry O’Donnell, who’s played this thing for five years, still seems to be having a helluva time (though don’t tell Aunt Hilda I said that). The 180-seat space is a bit deep, which makes the non-eating audience kinda far away, but you can hear those gorgeous harmonies from anywhere…. And if you haven’t heard them yet, what in Plaid suspenders are you waiting for?
MUSIC: under and out: “Crazy About You Baby”
©2001 Patté Productions Inc.